Review: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

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After four Paranormal Activity movies and one alleged spinoff – Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (which really should’ve just been called Paranormal Activity 5 when you consider the ending) – we have finally come to the end of the line with what’s being publicised as the franchise’s final film.

With diminishing box-office returns, especially from the fourth film on, it has probably become very clear to the money men that not many outside the franchise’s core fans care for yet another instalment, so a finale, promising to answer the various questions that the previous five films raised since the franchise’s humble beginnings in 2008, is definitely in order.

Choosing to end a horror franchise with a 3D film is a pretty cheeky decision too, as it will no doubt bring to mind other 3D franchise closers like Freddy’s Dead and Saw 3D. So with those fan-friendly movies for company, it’s regrettable that, while perfectly acceptable and enjoyable as another entry in the Paranormal Activity series, The Ghost Dimension is definitely not the closing chapter that this franchise deserves.

After five films, I think it’s safe to say that if you do decide to watch a sixth, then not only will you be more accepting of the found-footage concept, but you also won’t also be asking questions like “Why are they still filming?” or “Why are they letting the kid sleep all alone?” or “Why are they not diligently checking the footage they’ve just shot to convince people?” and other questions about dumb movie character behaviour that you have to let slide in order to enjoy the film.

‘Daddy, that creepy girl on the screen is scaring me. Why didn’t my agent sign me for the Poltergeist remake, where at least the TV screen is mostly blank?’

‘Daddy, that creepy girl on the screen is scaring me. Why didn’t my agent sign me for the Poltergeist remake, where at least the TV screen is mostly blank?’

A valid question to ask though, since this is the closing chapter, is why we need to spend yet another 90 minutes in the company of yet another new family settling into a new house that’s slowly revealed to be haunted. In short, why is Paranormal Activity 6 more or less a loose remake/elaboration of Paranormal Activity 4, with only the gender of the “chosen” kid reversed (here it’s a girl, Leila) and a few details changed, rearranged or elaborated on? There was every opportunity in the world to tie everything up and bring the whole series to a satisfying close here.

This is not to say that this film’s family, the Fleeges – dad Ryan (Chris J. Murray), mum Emily (Brit Shaw), young daughter Leila (Ivy George, an outstanding new discovery) and Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) – are a bore. They’re perfectly likeable people, but this film turns out to be very much about their particular circumstances. As this is a series ender, you would at least expect characters from the other films to appear and possibly cross paths or have their storylines intersect with the Fleeges.

If, like me, you’ve been paying attention to the franchise’s increasingly elaborate back story over the last five films, which began with a simple haunting and grew to involve demons, witches’ covens, prophecies and even time travel, it’s quite disappointing to see a closing chapter that neglects to make use of much of the back story and mythology from the first five films.

Yes, we finally do get to see more of Toby (the imaginary friend of all the kids in the franchise) as the plot here involves some obscure mumbo-jumbo about bringing him to our dimension with the help of Leila’s blood.

There’s a cool Poltergeist-style gateway-type portal on Leila’s bedroom wall which only barely addresses the time-travel aspects that made Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones such a nice surprise. But even casual fans of the franchise will be asking – where’s the adult Katie? After her appearances – important ones, no matter how brief – in all of the previous films, it’s simply baffling not to find her in this one, with only her name being casually mentioned, to make up for it.

But even with all these unanswered questions and missed opportunities in terms of plot and storyline, the movie has one undeniable trump card that makes it an absolute must-see – its almost novel use of 3D in what’s supposed to be footage captured on an old 1980s video camera. Outside of the usual slick Hollywood 3D products, there have been some interesting uses of 3D by art house directors like Jean-Luc Godard in Goodbye To Language, Werner Herzog in Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and Wim Wenders in Pina.

The Ghost Dimension’s “lo-fi” video 3D is quite simply gorgeous to behold, and joins the ranks of those films as another interesting step in the evolution of 3D as an expressive tool for filmmakers, with a grimy and textured beauty all its own.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Director: Gregory Plotkin

Cast: Chris J. Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Dan Gill, Olivia Taylor Dudley